Arts Blog

A pianist channels Billie Holiday

Pianist Lara Downes, a Steinway & Sons artist, has made a number of recordings for the piano company’s label in recent years with some intriguing concepts behind them.  “Exiles’ Cafe”, for example, highlighted European composers who had to leave their homelands, and in so doing, changed the landscape of music in their adopted country.  Ms. Downes’ latest is inspired by a singer whose unique style certainly changed the landscape of jazz forever after:  Billie Holiday.  Downes grew up listening to Holiday and other performers of jazz and classical, and has found that, at this stage in her career, Holiday is one that has influenced her own approach to piano interpretation.

Her new CD is not a note-for-note transcription of Holiday’s phrasing and vocalizations, but the work of arranger and pianist Jed Distler, who collaborated with Downes on these songs.  There is as much of Lara Downes as there is Billie Holiday in these wonderful performances.

A Billie Holiday Songbook / Lara Downes
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